More Than A Cup of Joe: Coffee Marinade & Brine Guide

By Escali in The Kitchen
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When the weather is warm enough for those outdoor BBQs, one of the last things you might consider adding to your ingredients list is a hot cup of coffee. Sure, some dads might stand around in their sandals and socks drinking bean juice out of their “World’s Okayest Dad” mugs, but really, coffee and summer cookouts haven’t jived. Until now.

Coffee is a wonderful marinade and brine for chicken, pork and beef. Believe it or not, this brewed morning miracle acts as a meat tenderizer while imparting a rich flavor, that is not distinctly “coffee.” Whether you enjoy coffee or would rather start your mornings with something a little less intense, using it as an ingredient while cooking meat can add variety and complexity to your meals.

Meat Baths 101

Before we get too far down the roasted bean road, let’s talk a little bit about the difference between a marinade and a brine. In short, the purpose of a marinade is to add flavor and the purpose of a brine is to add moisture. Of course, there will be some flavors with brines and some moisture with marinades, but the majority of their functions are set. Consider coffee as a new “spice” to add to your marinades and brines.

Marinating in a Cup of Ambition

Most of us are working for a living, so all cooking and meal prep needs to be done outside of the hours of 9 to 5, or some variation of Dolly’s schedule. The good news is that many people brew brain juice on the regular every morning. The trick is to brew more of it and to brew it so strong that it will fuel a rocket.

Most homes are not equipped with an espresso machine because we would rather be pampered by the good folks who misspell our names on cups at Starbucks. You will not need a coffee chain-worthy machine to get a strong, rich brew for your marinades or even for your own delicious beverages. A stovetop espresso maker such as this one from London Sip is an economical and space-saving way to get coffee-house quality brew at home. Using a stove-top espresso maker will keep the coffee brewed strong, but prevent the burnt flavor that some drip coffee makers can impart if the coffee is made too strong.

A coffee marinate is like any other. It features an acid such as vinegar or wine to help tenderize the meant and allow it to absorb flavor. Red wine can be an especially nice companion to coffee in a marinade. You will also need a fat in the form of an oil, such as olive oil, and lastly your flavoring.

Here is a simple coffee marinade recipe to try on chicken, steak, or pork.

  • 3 cloves garlic
  •  1 cup strong coffee/espresso, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbs worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Marinate the meat of your choice anywhere between 4 and 24 hours rotating so that all of the meat gets a chance to soak. The longer the meat sits, the more flavorful it will be. Other fresh herbs and spices can be added based on personal taste.

It’s Brine O’Clock Somewhere

As mentioned above, brine is meant to keep meat juicier. It is a method that is usually used for meat that has a tendency to dry out during the cooking process, like chicken or turkey, but also ribs. Brine is basically a saltwater bath that lets you give your meat that extra cook time without worrying about it getting dry. Cooking insurance, if you will.

Like in a marinade, coffee will act like a flavor in a brine, while the water and salt do the heavy lifting. The difference is that you might need a lot more of it depending on what you’re going to soak. That turkey will need more than a cup. No, not your significant other, the other turkey.

Brining is all about the salt to liquid ratio. The best way to measure things accurately is to use measuring cups and spoons for liquid ingredients and a food scale for dry ingredients. Dry ounces are not the same as fluid ounces. A kitchen scale, such as the Escali Arti Glass Scale, is a valuable tool that will help with accuracy and save on dishes.

One trick to making a brine is to heat the water in a pot and to add the salt and sugar in order for it to dissolve. Ingredients won’t do you any good if they are just hanging out at the bottom of your brining vessel. If your water is still hot when you are ready to add your meat, cool it down with a few ice cubes, but make sure you know ahead of time so you can adjust the salt for this added water.

This coffee brine recipe for chicken can be multiplied for a larger bird.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 ½ cups strong coffee
  • 2 oz. salt
  • 2 oz. brown sugar
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • Peppercorns
  • Bay leaf
    • *Optional flavor additions: orange peels, apple cider vinegar, herbs and spices, maple syrup

Your friends and neighbors will never believe the secret ingredient to your rich, flavorful steaks or your savory chicken. Marinades and brines are a great way to prepare meat for grilling, frying or roasting. Many of the ingredients, including coffee, are often inexpensive and on-hand and the preparation can be done hours ahead or even the night before.

Try out these recipes and some new tools for some great meals and a great cup of Joe.


Look to Escali for contemporary, high-quality, accurate measuring tools for all of your cooking, baking, and mixing needs!

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